Robert Moses applied his talent for making things, giant things, with a prolific brute force still evident today from almost any vantage point in New York City. Everything he engineered exacted his vision for the modern city, an ethos anchored by his firm placement of a virtual crown of sorts atop the king of 20th century affluence and mobility—the automobile.
He had a particular soft spot for the notion of the family car, which he exalted in his designs as a well-meaning father might spoil his favorite daughter, never noticing the pain inflicted on his other very capable children who can never even seem to get a hug. So while his roads and bridges of magnificent proportion engulfed the quieter characteristics of the city, block by block, those citizens with a simple wish to explore and traverse by means of their own two feet were often left stumped in the wake of a new transportation paradigm.
Everyone should own a car and eventually everyone will, so build roads—the Moses juggernaut extolled. They’re overflowing already? Build more. Make them longer, wider.
The pavement was poured.
Much has been said about Robert Moses’s controversial brand of heavy-handed influence on American cities. I make no claim here to add much value to that debate. I aim instead to draw a parallel between his time and ours, between 20th century infrastructure and modern digital constructs, and to wonder aloud if we should continue to throw more roads at our own traffic problems, the kind in which bytes, bits, connections, and content conspire to cajole us into fender benders of the mind and spirit.